Vice President of Global Product
While there has been a lot of attention lately on fake reviews online, companies like TripAdvisor continue to push the user-generated content model as a way to not only make consumers happy, but to help hotel and restaurant owners build successful businesses. Adam Medros, vice president of global product for TripAdvisor, spoke with eMarketer’s Danielle Drolet about steps the travel reviews site is taking to ward off fraudulent content.
eMarketer: Do you think fake reviews are a genuine problem or more of a perception issue?
Adam Medros: I understand the overall concern, but as an insider, user-generated content ultimately delivers great results for users. User reviews are not a new concept, and users have learned how to use them.
Today, when you watch a user interact with user-generated content, they typically look for threads of consistency. They tend to ignore the extremes—the highs and the lows.
When multiple reviewers start to mention the same thematic things, such as the service is poor, users then assume this could be true because multiple people have mentioned it.
“When multiple reviewers start to mention the same thematic things, such as the service is poor, users then assume this could be true because multiple people have mentioned it.”
eMarketer: How do you increase trustworthiness?
Medros: Scale is critical. We’re getting 60 pieces of content every minute added to our site. The average hotel has a couple hundred reviews and that scale means that you’re going to have those highs and lows work themselves out. It’s also a self-correcting system for a hotel or restaurant that has done well historically.
The worst things in the world are tourist traps that have been trading on a good location and their reputation for years. What TripAdvisor and other user-generated content does is show the decline of those services over time.
As a new business comes on to TripAdvisor, they want to build a reputation and prove their service. We’ve seen hotels dedicate themselves to addressing the things that people talk about in reviews. Their service improves and they suddenly go from mediocre to great because they listened to the feedback.
eMarketer: It seems like there is a fine line between sending a follow-up email to a hotel guest asking them to rate their stay and offering a gift or discount for doing so. Where does TripAdvisor stand on this?
Medros: Our group, TripAdvisor for Business, connects with hospitality businesses to help them use us as a marketing tool by collecting reviews and offering widgets for their website.
For example, we would encourage and facilitate a follow-up email from Wyndham to their guests asking, “Would you like to go write a review on TripAdvisor and share your experiences?” That becomes a huge move by Wyndham to put trust in user-generated content and in letting people share their opinions, good or bad. It lends itself to the truth coming out in large numbers.
“We’ve seen hotels dedicate themselves to addressing the things that people talk about in reviews.”
What’s not OK is to offer incentives, because it ultimately biases the opinions toward the positive. It’s against our guidelines. Nobody’s going to write a negative review and then collect their discount. It also biases the results towards companies that have larger marketing budgets.
eMarketer: How do you see the future of user reviews transforming?
The next direction for user reviews is mobile and social. People are consuming and contributing reviews on the go. They also want to connect those experiences with their friends, ranging from a check-in of “I’m here” and “You should go because the hotel was great” to “What’s good here?” and to even more granular like, “This place is really great for this and this, but don’t get this.”
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Check out today’s other articles, “Real-Time Location Data Gets a Bigger Slice of Mobile Targeting” and “Consumers in Latin America, Asia-Pacific Get Social With Brands.”